The average number of voters per precinct in Summit County will increase by more than 400 — to about 1,200 — in the November election.
The elections board voted Thursday to cut the number of precincts from 475 to 298, a 37 percent reduction. Some precincts will be close to the 1,400 voter limit set by the state, while others will stay between 400 and 600 voters.
“I’m as comfortable as I can be with this decrease,” said Tim Gorbach, the board’s Democratic chairman.
Gorbach reiterated that he is opposed to redrawing the precincts between a presidential primary and general election. The board’s Republicans suggested this as one of several cost-cutting measures, and Secretary of State Jon Husted, also a Republican, backed them.
The board, in a special meeting that was uncharacteristically civil, voted unanimously for the new precinct lines. The board approved the redrawn lines well in advance of the June 1 deadline Husted gave for the task.
Board employees, working with an outside vendor, were able to avoid splitting any areas in which a politician is elected, such as wards in which council members are picked. The number of precincts split because of the boundaries for Congressional, school district and Ohio House and Senate districts will go from 70 to 86, a 23 percent increase.
Cutting the precincts is expected to save about $160,000 per election, according to Joe Masich, the board’s director. The board has been trying to cut costs because of a battle with the county over how much funding is needed for this year, with the two sides far apart and a potential legal battle over the issue looming on the horizon.
Board employees said no specific information about voters, such as party, race or gender, were considered in redrawing the lines. The new precinct lines incorporate changes to ward boundaries made by municipalities, including Norton, Tallmadge and Green, to reflect changes in response to the 2010 census. Some cities, including Akron, haven’t yet made changes to ward boundaries.
The board will wait until after the November election to again change the boundaries in these areas. The ward boundaries will remain the same until the next municipal election, which is in 2013.
Board members and leaders praised Aaron Neunz and Sean Gaffney, the board’s information technology employees who worked with International Computer Works (ICW) of Temple Terrace, Fla., to redraw the lines. They were challenged to redraw precincts with an average of 741 voters each into those with less than 1,400, trying to avoid splitting subdivisions that have a single precinct, precincts with ward characteristics, or wards, cities, villages and townships.
“They really did dig down with everything else they were doing,” Kim Zurz, the board’s executive director said of the IT employees. “While there will be some impact, hopefully it will not be overly impacting to too many communities.”
The board paid ICW about $5,700 to help with the mapping process.
With the new precinct boundaries approved, board employees now turn to figuring out how many polling sites will be needed.
The board had 196 polling locations in the March primary. Some had one to two precincts, while others had five to six, depending on the size of the location and the number of voters in the area. This equates to an average of 2.42 precincts per polling location, Masich said.
If this average remains the same with the lower number of precincts, the county would end up with 115 to 130 polling locations, Masich said.
“It depends geographically on how it works out and where we end up,” he said.
Board officials say the polling sites will be determined well in advance of the election to give plenty of time to notify voters of what is changing and what is staying the same.
“It won’t change for everybody,” Gorbach said.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or email@example.com.